Fragrant Annuals And Biennials

Fragrance in flowers gives a bonus to beauty and most people would give extra points to a plant so favoured. A fair proportion should be grown in every garden and since the summer sorts (particularly) seem to smell most sweetly toward the evening, plant these close to the house and enjoy their fragrance at this quiet part of the day or by a garden seat where they may be appreciated at leisure.


Asperula orientalis is a pretty little woodruff with 12-in, high slender stems carrying whorls of needle-Asperula orientalislike leaves and terminal heads of small, sky-blue, tubular flowers. It should be sown in early spring where it is to flower, selecting shady places in moist soil or damp pockets near water. It flowers about twelve weeks later.


Centaurea moschata is the sweet sultan, a popular and sweetly fragrant plant much esteemed for cutting purposes. It has thistle-like heads of white, yellow, rose, red or purple on 2-ft. Stems and toothed leaves. Seed can be sown outside in spring and the seedlings thinned to 9 in. apart, or in frames in September for flowering under glass in late winter. Germination takes place in about sixteen days.


The sweet scent and showy flowers of wallflowers (Cheiranthus cheiri) gives them great appeal for spring bedding and cutting purposes. They are hardy, remain in character for weeks and, apart from mixed strains, seed can be bought to colour to conform with different bedding schemes. Although perennial they are treated as biennials; the seed being sown soon after harvesting. It germinates in about twelve days and then the seedlings should be pricked out in rows 6 in. apart. In order to produce a fibrous root system and make them easier to transplant the tips of the tap roots should be broken at this stage. In early autumn they should be lifted again and planted in their flowering positions, in full sun and 1 ft. apart. The usual height is around 18 in., but dwarf types like Tom Thumb only grow to half that height. The colour range includes reddish brown, blood red, crimson, salmon, ruby, rose, yellow and creamy white.


Dianthus are noted for fragrance and amongst those normally raised from seed are the popular sweet williams (Dianthus barbatus). Although perennial these are treated as biennial since they deteriorate after the first flowering, and self-set seedlings usually maintain the stock in future years. After germination the plants produce basal clumps of long narrow leaves and the following spring 18-in. Leafy stems terminating in large flat heads of wide open flowers. Reds predominate but other colour combinations of shades occur, also varieties with double flowers. The species has been crossed with D. allwoodii (itself a cross between an old English garden pink and the border carnation) to produce the fragrant Sweet Wivelsfield pinks. These are also treated as biennials.


Exacum eine is a delightful member of the gentian family with extraordinarily sweet-smelling flowers. These are small and mauve and the leaves smooth and oval in shape. The plant is bushy and low growing (9 to 12 in.) but flowers for months and is especially fine for pot work in the home or conservatory. Treat as half hardy; germination takes about fourteen days.


Heliotropium arborescens (heliotrope) is a half-hardy perennial from Peru with branching stems carrying dark green oblong leaves and clusters of richly scented violet-purple flowers. This fragrance is most marked towards evening. Heliotrope is often known as cherry pie and white, pink and rose-flowered forms can occur. The plants are popular for bedding and as pot subjects; particularly good forms being propagated from cuttings. Normally, however, they are grown from seed, as half-hardy annuals, since they flower freely the first year. They appreciate a rich, well-drained soil and full sun.

The seed germinates in about fourteen days and seedlings should be separately potted but not planted outside until there is no more risk of frost. To produce bushy plants pinch out the tops when they are 4 to Sin, high. For standards (which are best treated as biennial) leave the main stem and rub out all side shoots. Once the required height is reached remove the tip and let the side shoots develop.


Humea elegans is a striking plant for growing under glass or in a light window, although its powerful incense smell may not appeal to everyone. It has large, oval, sharply pointed leaves and loose pendant sprays of small crimson or reddish-brown flowers. Treat as biennial, sowing the seed in mid-summer.


The sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) is a universal favourite, particularly for cutting. Almost every shade of colour is represented in the sweet-smelling flowers. To do well, however, the plants require rich well-prepared soil in an open sunny position. The ground should be deeply dug (approximately 2 ft.) the previous autumn, or holes can be taken out to the same depth, and a good layer of well-rotted manure placed in the bottom before returning the soil.

The seed can be sown in late January or February (two or three seeds to a 3-in, pot) in a cool greenhouse or frame and planted outside as the weather improves in early spring (March or April). The plants must be supported with peasticks or trained up netting or strings. They need plenty of water and feeding in summer. Keep the flowers picked to prevent seed formation (which checks further blooming) and remove tendrils and surplus foliage. For early flowering seed is sown in autumn or winter in a cold frame and exhibition flowers are grown on plants restricted to a single stem.

Others with scented flowers include Limnanthes douglasii, Alyssum maritimum, hesperis, violas, antirrhinums and Tropaeolum majus.

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